Before going to the theatre to see 300 last night, I strayed around the edge of Chinatown before cutting through Soho. Along Canal street, I stopped at a clothing store where all of the shirts looked very cute and colorful but were incredibly cheap. I was thrilled until I tried on a few tops and left the store having lost time on nothing. Had a good dinner at an Ethiopian place but that doesn’t fit in here. What does fit in here is the parallel between that store and 300.
Both look pretty and provoke possibilities in the imagination. You even take them into the dressing room/get emotionally involved in the scenes. But sooner or later it hits you that there’s not much to take away here. In fact, there’s kind of a sense of ‘what was that really all about?’
The movie is based on a fiction, fiction, fiction novel and this can not be said enough, for although Persians and Spartans and all kinds of races are tossed around (haphazardly), the story has nothing to do with how history actually wove any of the real names into its fabric.
I digress from my bias to review the film itself. If I knew nothing about history — and knowing something about history may lend a feeling of disgust to the experience — I would say that this movie displays a touch of talent in many areas. First, the simplicity of the plot is very useful, for there’s not much you can do in 1:30 these days anymore without giving someone the feeling that they just ate bad candy and will only have a drop in blood sugar to pay for it. No, 300 delivers some meat and potatoes. Whether you actually want the plot to sit so heavy in you afterwards is another question I’ll address here.
For instance, my sister and I (and a few people on YouTube) found the transfer of all of that focused battle energy to be a little too much for our equilibriums to handle. Our spirits begged the parody, and the parody emerged at every opportunity on the way home. For me, I felt as if I was storming the entrance to the subway, ready to change my hamster’s name from Cleo to Cleonidus and create a series based on her leadership of my compatriots and I into battle for freedom of all Syrian hamsters. My sister said that she and her fellow movie-goers felt like having a battle with their pool cues at the bar after the movie. And a few people on YouTube, well, just type in ‘300 parody’ and see for yourself.
Next, there was something about the lens filter and angles and CGI that allowed even a gore-aphobe like me to keep my eyes open during a beheading scene or two and a few limb hackings as well. It was kind of a first for me and only possible through the magic of digital animation techniques.
Finally, there was something appealing about the way the people looked and, this is a cheesy admission, the way that wolf howled.
On the other hand …
The plot was steady and predictable (even if lifted by action and good-looking things). But when you try to digest it, take it in, own it in any way, it turns out to be a little bit cheap — there’s something so fake about fake.
A few things that prevented me from taking this movie seriously follow:
The main, supposedly Greek, character has a Scottish accent and is able to make crisp (as opposed to the expected warm and mealy variety) apples appear like magic after he travels for two days with no bag or pocket.
His wife, another ‘hard core Spartan’ has a British accent, the temperment of a frigid British wife (sex scene notwithstanding) and still — in spite of all of the millions of efforts to digitally animate the crap out of everything including the soldiers abdomens and Xerxes lips — dons a TB scar on her left arm. (It is very obviously caught in the lights of a scene halfway through the movie).
Although the movie takes place many centuries before a time when genetic engineering turns people into cloned fighting machines and supersizes elephants and rhinos, we see this happening and, to my dismay, representative of some kind of orgy-harem society of ‘the East.’ This thing was slathered in stereotypes and prejudiced, almost farcical historical propositions. Unfortunately, ignorant people might entertain them to the delight of Greeks in diasporas around the world. Duh.
The oracle has nipples like the man in this commercial!